Washington State House Democrats


Riccelli’s universal free school meals bill approved by Education Committee

OLYMPIA – Hungry kids can’t focus on learning with empty stomachs. If they can’t focus, they can’t learn. Throughout the years, Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) has led the charge to provide more free school meals to students across Washington state. Now, he wants the Legislature to make the free meal program available to every public school student.

HB 2058, approved by the House Education Committee today in a 14-0 vote, requires all schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to any student who requests it, without fear of “lunch shaming.” Funding for the meals would come from the state, not the individual schools or districts.

During committee testimony, Rebecca Matthews, a middle school teacher and member of the Washington Education Association stated, “When students arrive to my classroom after eating breakfast, they are better able to engage in classroom activities and learning with an empowered brain.”

Access to free meals lifts the burden of finances off many students’ shoulders. With schools providing healthy meals, students can enjoy their time at school instead of wondering when their next meal will be, a problem with which many Washington students have struggled.

“Students are not going to thrive if they do not have access to nutritious meals,” Riccelli said. “We need to be a hunger free Washington, especially for our children. Washington cannot continue to lead from behind, we must make universal school meals a reality this year or risk falling behind even more states who recognize that this is an essential part of public education. Feeding kids can’t wait.”

HB 2058 now heads to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.